Hola! Bonjour! Sawadee ka! Helping your child learn a second (or third) language is one of the best things you can do as a parent. It isn't always easy, but the payoff is major, and not just because they can add it to a résumé down the line; truth is, it actually enhances their cognitive development. Here, we've got some tips on what you can do to get them on their way to polyglot status ASAP.
- Start 'em young: You've probably heard that it's best when kids learn a new language at a young age — but how young is that exactly? Research shows that before age 7 is ideal, and that language-learning abilities significantly decline after puberty. Do your part by signing them up for an after-school class or teaching them yourself. If neither of those are options, consider hiring a nanny who speaks the language you want your child to learn.
- Surround them with it: Sure, textbooks and workbooks are essential to the learning process, but so are other (fun) elements. Have him or her download games, watch shows and movies, read books, and listen to music, all in the language. You can also make it a part of their daily routine by asking them to count aloud, be it in Spanish, Chinese, French, or otherwise.
- Practice, practice, practice: Like any other skill, if kids don't practice the language, they'll lose it. Do you know the language they are learning? Then speak it to them frequently! If not, set an example and try to learn it with them. Even if you only get familiar with some basics, practice by leaving them notes in their lunch box or saying phrases like "I love you" before bedtime. Another option is to find kid groups or activities in the language your child is learning.
- Learn the culture of the language: One great way to get them excited about speaking a new language is to teach them all about the culture associated with it. For instance, find all the countries on the map where the language is spoken or cook foods together that have foreign names. Learning should be fun, after all!